Plausible Deniability

Kli Yakar Genesis: Vayigash

Plausible Deniability

I don’t recall the first time I heard the term ‘plausible deniability’ in reference to politicians, but I knew instantly that there was a deep truth to the concept. I have read with some fascination and even a little pleasure about the shame and embarrassment WikiLeaks has caused to politicians and leaders across the globe. These leaders have consistently been the subject of ridicule, but now it has reached a new and perhaps dangerous level that may yet affect international relations.

The Kli Yakar is highly sympathetic to politicians and teaches proper protocol for conversing with them and even accusing them if matters must go so far.

In Genesis 42, Joseph has taken his charade to the breaking point. He has claimed young Benjamin as a slave and excused his other brothers to return to their father in Canaan. Judah the nominal leader of the brothers approaches Joseph, still in the guise of the unrecognized Egyptian Viceroy.

According to the Kli Yakar (Genesis 42:18), Judah requests a private audience. Joseph allows Judah to approach. Judah whispers his accusation in Joseph’s ear, laying out the charade and then offering himself as a replacement for the hapless Benjamin.

The Kli Yakar learns from Judah’s approach the necessity of discretion when dealing with politicians. It is dangerous to shame them or place them in an awkward situation. There is value in whispering a comment to them that only they will hear and that they could plausibly deny thereafter.

I’m sure our current politicians would have loved counterparts as sensitive and discrete as Judah.

May God keep us away from politicians in the first place, but if we have to deal with them, may we do so intelligently and escape unscathed.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Minister Yuli Edelstein. One of the few politicians I know and like. His posters are up. May he succeed.

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